Waste to Wealth

By Glowforge

Challenge: Optimize a product design to maximize profitability by minimizing waste.

Explore how decisions about materials, production time, and sales platforms can impact a product’s profitability.

Facilitation Guide


Simple choices are impactful for new businesses. Every decision by an emerging entrepreneur or business owner can determine whether or not their business succeeds. For creatives using tools like Glowforge to design, customize, and create products, choices about the design’s size and shape or the material used can affect profitability.

Glowforge empowers creators of all backgrounds, skills, and ages to create profitable businesses. To be successful, you’ll want to think about how sales platforms, shipping prices, and customization affect your bottom line. This challenge builds to creating a profitable business model for your very own product.


Research and explore product ideas, business models, and options for reducing material waste in your designs. Consider the following:

  • What’s your design or product idea? One wonderful aspect of the Glowforge Catalog is that users can purchase or use designs from other creators. Decide whether you would like to create a new design or select one from the catalog. (You can also brainstorm additional product features during the next stage).

  • What goes into a business model? As you prepare to bring your product to market, you’ll want to better understand the different elements of the model.

  • Discover the unique characteristics of E-commerce platforms such as their policies, specialties, and rates.

  • Explore the components of shipping like mail class, the service provider (USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc.) agency, and the item being delivered.

  • Check out the materials that work with Glowforge. Look through the Glowforge FAQ to learn about the variety and best practices for different materials, or explore the Glowforge Proofgrade store to find the perfect material for your product.

  • Examine the impact of customizing products by reading this conversation in the Glowforge Community about how to price and discuss your product.

  • How will your materials, print time, and assembly impact pricing? Even after optimizing to get the most out of them, materials cost money. Don’t forget that your time spent designing and assembling your product is valuable, too. Check out this video about some different items to consider when planning and pricing a new product.

  • How might you repurpose leftover materials or off-cuts that you already have to create marketable products?

Explore Tip

Explore the Glowforge Community forum for discussions, tips, and resources about minimizing waste and repurposing leftover materials for future designs.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the research you did for your design.

  • What techniques did you explore for maximizing your product’s profits?
  • What strategies did you learn for reducing waste when creating designs for Glowforge?

Are there any other resources or techniques that would be helpful to explore? Next you’ll proceed to the Ideate stage, where you'll brainstorm ideas for your product.


Now, brainstorm some product ideas. Think of as many ideas as you can, without worrying about whether they’re good or bad. Consider the following:

  • What are your ideas for your product?

  • If you chose to start fresh with an original design, what unique features do you want to include?

  • If you decided to use a design in the Glowforge catalog, how might you personalize it for your customers?

  • What customizable parts could you include? Check the Glowforge Gallery for many creative designs that allow for customizations and personalization. Glowforge designers can increase their profits by charging higher prices for custom designs. Get creative to find ways to include customizable pieces in your design, too.

  • How can you modify your product to minimize waste and maximize profitability?

  • What more do you need to know before you redesign your product?

Ideate Tip

One way to reduce waste is to reuse leftover material in new and creative ways. As Glowforge Community member Dunfee states, “This kind of stuff I’m actually really excited about. Sometimes the best flashes of inspiration come from pieces you think are garbage at the time!” One Glowforge creator designed 3D puzzle pieces from scraps while others turned their scraps into tessellation puzzles inspired by M.C. Escher. Another creator finds inspiration in Skallops, small connectors that turn items like playing cards into building blocks.

Reflect and Review

At this point, you probably have many ideas for making a profitable product. Take a moment to reflect on the techniques and ideas you brainstormed.

  • How did design constraints help inspire your creativity?
  • Which product idea excites you, and potentially customers, the most?
  • Do any of your ideas stand out as favorites? Which ideas are less appealing?

Are there any points to consider before you move on to the Design stage? There you’ll narrow your ideas to one or two concepts to fully design.


Review your brainstorm and select one or two to further develop with sketches or digital mockups. At the end of this stage, you‘ll print your revised design and assemble a product prototype. Consider the following:

  • Which type of material do you plan to use?
  • How many copies of your design will fit on a single piece of material? How does that affect your overall cost?
  • What features of the Glowforge App can help you add more designs to a single piece of material?
  • How might you use tools like Deepnest or Fabricaide that auto-arrange your designs to optimize materials and time?
  • What other materials do you need for your product? This might be something like paint, a key ring, or adhesives that could contribute to your overall costs.

Design Tip

With Glowforge Live Preview, you can use every bit of material. Live Preview shows remaining material, letting you maximize your resources and profitability.

Reflect and Review

After developing and assembling your product, take a moment to reflect on your progress.

  • What discoveries did you make during the design stage?
  • What challenges did you encounter while trying to maximize the number of designs that fit on a single piece of material? How did you resolve the issue?
  • Can you customize your product? How long will it take to customize and create the product for an order?

Do you want to revisit your design? Now’s the time to make any changes, before you move onto the Prototype stage. There you’ll create a pricing plan using the Business Model Builder.


At this point, you have an assembled prototype and a design that maximizes your material. Finalize the design from the previous stage. During this stage, you’ll take what you learned during the Design stage and input it into the Business Model Builder. Consider the following:

  • How long will it take to print, create, and assemble your design?
  • How do design and business decisions impact your profitability? Read the directions in the Business Model Builder carefully as you begin creating your business model. You will primarily fill out the green cells in the Business Model Builder to come up with your model. Using the steps below for each tab, fill out the following information. Tab names are in bold.

A. Products, Materials, or Shipping - Fill in the Options tabs if you are adding a product not already listed in the Business Model Builder.

B. Step 1: Products - Add your name to B7 and select your product(s) in A.

C. Step 2: Production - Select your state in A6 and select Shipping in G11.

D. Step 3: Sales - Use the numbers that are in C8:G8 or customize as desired.

E. Step 4: Pricing - Adjust B6:B10. Notice the impact of adjusting options like Markup of materials and Shipping.

F. FINISHED: Business Model - Notice components of your model including Operating Costs and Bottom Line.

  • How might you change aspects of the Business Model Builder, such as the material that you selected or free shipping, to impact your profitability?
  • How might you scale your product to increase its profitability?
  • How does customization affect your pricing? Make sure that your time is represented on the Options: Products tab in the Business Model Builder.

Prototype Tip

Scaling your design pieces can save you materials and time. Select the Ruler tool in the Glowforge App to bring up a menu for changing the scale of an item. This can help you fit more prints onto a single sheet of material. Review the Glowforge Community Forum for posts like this one on how to optimize your production run.

Reflect and Review

Think about the Business Model Builder you developed and the decisions you tested during this stage.

  • Was your first attempt profitable?
  • What changes had the biggest impact on profitability?
  • What else could you change to increase profitability?

Is there anything you want to revisit or change before moving on to the Evaluation stage?


At this point, you have a product prototype and a business model. Next, in the Evaluate stage, you’ll think about how to get feedback from others and use it to adjust your product or model. Consider the following as ideas to help others offer actionable feedback:

  • Are you interested in purchasing the product? What, if anything, could be improved?
  • What elements of the business model have the most potential? What, if anything, causes concern? What areas might be adjusted to increase profitability?
  • Would you purchase the product at the suggested price?
  • How can they further improve and refine the product’s design or business model?

Evaluate Tip

Record a video highlighting your product and explaining the Business Model Builder. Post the video on an interactive whiteboard, such as Padlet, or video discussion platform, such as Flip, to reach a bigger feedback audience.

Reflect and Review

Take a moment to reflect on the feedback you received.

  • What aspects of the Business Model Builder or your product design do you need to revisit or adjust?
  • Are there stages in the design process that you would like to return to in order to make these adjustments?

Once you have completed and finalized your product and your business model, it’s time to share it with a larger audience!

Share your students' creations on social media! Post your photos and use the hashtag #GlowforgeEDU and tag us @glowforge for the chance to be featured.